Bern approves plan to ban outdoor advertising and billboards

Bern approves plan to ban outdoor advertising and billboards

By a razor-thin margin, the city council and parliament of Bern have voted to ban commercial advertising outdoors. Authorities now have to come up with a new law, which will see traditional billboards and signs banned from the de-facto capital of Switzerland.

Bern passes billboard ban due to climate concerns

By 30 votes to 29, a proposal to ban commercial advertising outdoors passed the city parliament of Bern on February 1. The ban will apply to all commercial advertising outside, not just on public property but on private land as well. However, local businesses and entrepreneurs would still be able to use billboards and advertising on their own premises.

The motion itself came from a coalition headed by the Alternative Left Party and was inspired by a similar policy implemented in the French city of Grenoble. In the motion, the parties argued that advertising goes against Bern’s goal of becoming climate neutral, as it encourages spending and therefore uses energy and generates carbon emissions.

“Commercial advertising is a completely meaningless product of a capitalist system that has already had its day,“ argued Young Alternative Yes! (GB/JA) spokesperson Anna Jegher. Green Free List representative Mirjam Roder told the Berner Zeitung that billboards ruin the urban and rural landscape, but advised caution in drafting the new law.

Critics call the advertising ban Stone Age communism

Having been passed by an extremely narrow margin - mainly because a majority of Social Democratic representatives voted yes and the Green Free List caucus abstained - the law has more than its fair share of opponents. FDP representative Nik Eugster told the Berner Zeitung that people in Bern would lose their jobs because of the change as it would hamper local companies’ sales and move ad spending by larger companies away from local ad firms and onto the internet.

Critics also baulked at the cost, with the motion’s backers predicting that the scheme would cost the city council 5 million francs a year in lost revenue. SVP councillor Alexander Feuz was the most strident, calling the change a “step towards Stone Age communism.”

Mayor of Bern calls for compromise deal

For his part, Bern Mayor Alec von Graffenried told the Berner Zeitung that “too much advertising makes you sick, but no advertising is North Korea, I don’t want that either.” He encouraged both sides to find a “middle ground” as the law is drafted by the local council in the coming months.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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